Most affordable UK cities for students revealed

New study by NatWest reveals the most affordable university cities in the UK, based on how much students spend on basics like food, drink, rent and bills.

students in lecture hall

August 22, 2018

NatWest have updated their Student Living Index for 2018, revealing how students are spending their money and what cities offer the best when it comes to the cost of living.

This is the fifth year in a row NatWest has published student cost of living data, which this year is drawn from a survey of 3,419 students across the top 35 most popular university cities in the UK. The students were asked how much they spend on essentials such as food, drink, rent and bills, as well as how they split their time across studying, working part-time and socialising.

To determine which cities were the most affordable, they divided the average monthly costs of students’ accommodation, activities and items (food, drink, clothes etc.) by their average monthly income.

This revealed the following list of the most affordable student cities in the UK:

City Ranking
Hull 1st
Cardiff 2nd
Leicester 3rd
Brighton 4th
Portsmouth 5th
Aberystwyth 6th
Sheffield 7th
Canterbury 8th
Oxford 9th
Plymouth 10th
Aberdeen 11th
Norwich 12th
Southampton 13th
Nottingham 14th
Durham 15th
Reading 16th
Leeds 17th
Bristol 18th
St. Andrews 19th
Poole 20th
York 21st
Coventry 22nd
Belfast 23rd
Newcastle 24th
Swansea 25th
Glasgow 26th
Dundee 27th
Exeter 28th
Manchester 29th
Cambridge 30th
Stirling 31st
Edinburgh 32nd
Birmingham 33rd
London 34th
Liverpool 35th


As you can see, Hull comes out as the most affordable city in the UK for Uni students – followed by Cardiff and Leicester.

What students spend their money on

The biggest expenditure for students is bills, food and toiletries – followed by alcohol and eating out.

Unsurprisingly, students that live in London pay the highest monthly rent with an average of £668.24. Students in Belfast pay the least rent, with an average monthly rent of £339.15. That is followed closely by Glasgow, where students pay an average of £373.48 per month for rent.

Students in Belfast might enjoy paying the least for rent, but they can expect to pay the most for a pint (£7.20). Leicester offers the cheapest pints for students (£2.00), followed by Durham (£2.20).

In terms of keeping up with fashion, students in Manchester spend the most per month on clothes, shoes and accessories (£45.70) followed by London students (£42.20).

How much do students earn?

Other than student loans, the second biggest contributor to students’ income in the Bank of Mum and Dad, which tops up their monthly income by an average of £199.70 per month.

Students in London have the highest monthly total income at £1,388.10, and students in York have the lowest at £993.80 – which is £228 less than the national average.

Students at Oxford get the most money per month from their parents (£355.30), and those at Cambridge get the second most (£290.40).

In terms of money from part-time jobs, the study revealed that the average UK student earns less per month from their jobs than the money they get from their parents. On average, students work 15.3 hours per month in part-time employment, which earns them an average of £106.50.

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